Part 3 of an eight part series previewing the 2006 Kentucky Wildcats.
Burton and Tamme and pray for rain?
With experienced talent returning on the offensive line, in the backfield and at quarterback, Joker Phillips' offense is three quarters of the way to gaining respectability in the Southeastern Conference. Unfortunately, as it has throughout the history of Kentucky football, the fourth quarter could spell doom for the Cats. Kentucky knows what it has in Keenan Burton and Jacob Tamme. Burton possesses a combination of height, speed and explosiveness not often seen in Kentucky receivers. He is a player that can spread the field and attack the ball when it is in the air. Tamme is an athletic and rangy tight end with phenomenal hands and excellent route running ability. Both have proven themselves at the collegiate level. Unfortunately, they stand alone in this regard amongst Kentucky pass catchers. In fact, the four wide receivers behind Burton on the un-depth chart have accumulated a combined 6 career catches for 36 yards and no touchdowns. Experience is even more lacking behind Tamme at tight end, where the remaining four players at the position are all freshman who have yet to see the field.
Returning Wide Receivers:
6-2, 195 Jr., Louisville, KY (Manual H.S.)
Out of the gate strong in 2005 with 4 catches for 98 yards against Louisville. Then returned opening kickoff in game two 90 yards before suffering freakish broken foot. Missed next four games and played last five at partial speed. Also missed all but two games in 2004 with broken wrist. Career numbers include 44 catches for 586 yards and four touchdowns.
5-11, 187 So., LaGrange, Ga. (LaGrange H.S.)
Saw significant action at wide receiver as a true Freshman in 2005 until suffering a season-ending knee injury in game four. Caught 2 passes. Like all LaGrange players on Kentucky's roster, has a reputation for being exceptionally physical. Appeared nearly completely healed in Spring as evidenced by his strong performance in the Spring Game. (59 yard t.d. catch, 50 yard t.d. pass on end around.)
Dicky Lyons, Jr.
5-11, 190 So., New Orleans, La. (Holy Cross H.S)
Son of UK legend Dicky Lyons excelled as a special teams player as a true freshman in 2004 averaging nearly 30 yards on 5 kickoff returns. Added 2 catches for 11 yards as a receiver. Redshirted in 2005 as he recovered from a hamstring injury. Ripped by Joker Phillips in the Spring for lack of focus and commitment. Has excellent ability to run after the catch, good speed and powerful frame, but has not been able to put it together. Rumored to have had a bit of an epiphany as far as work effort this summer.
6-0, 189 Jr., Lexington, KY (Lex. Cath. H.S.)
Biggest enigma on the team. Track star speed (sub 4.4) with great high school pedigree (21st receiver nationally by SuperPrep). Despite this, has been unable to crack Kentucky's thin depth chart at receiver. Has played in 12 career games with 1 catch. Biggest obstacles appear to be inconsistent hands and lack of confidence.
Joe Joe Brown
6-3, 195 So., Cordele, Ga. (Crisp County)
Came to Kentucky as a highly regarded dual threat quarterback, but was moved to receiver in 2005 due in large part to a lack of arm strength. Managed 1 catch in limited action. Good frame and nice hands make him a good candidate for a possession-type receiver who should provide depth in 2006.
As much as any season in recent memory, incoming receivers will have an opportunity to jump in and see immediate action. Most likely to do so is Steve Johnson
, a Junior College transfer from Chabot College in California. Johnson has impressive size at 6-2, 198 and caught 73 passes last season for more than 1000 yards and 12 touchdowns. Cat fans should temper their immediate expectations somewhat, however, as history tells us that Juco receivers rarely hit their stride until late in their first year. (See Chris Bernard, Aaron Boone, and Scott Mitchell.) Terrance Jones
and Michael Strickland
are two other freshman who may see action. Both hail from Georgia and possess good size and athleticism.
Returning Tight End:
6-5, 240 Jr., Boyle County, KY (Boyle County H.S.)
Tamme burst on to the scene after being switched from wide receiver to tight end before the season finale at Tennessee in 2004, catching 2 touchdown passes. Managed 29 catches for 251 yards and a td last season despite fighting through shoulder injuries. If fully healthy, which the staff expects him to be, should be able to create match up problems as slower linebackers and shorter defensive backs attempt to account for him in the passing game.
6-5, 235 RS FR, Suwannee, Ga. (Gwinnett County H.S.)
Moved into second on the depth chart behind Tamme in the Spring due to impressive ability to get downfield as a big tight end. Was second team all state in Georgia in 2004.
6-5, 250 RS FR, Elizabethtown, KY (Elizabethtown H.S.)
Spent redshirt year at defensive end position before being moved to tight end in the offseason. Already has size to be excellent blocker. Probably not a stretch the field-type tight end, but possesses good quickness for his size and good hands.
6-6, 230 FR, Nelson County, KY (Nelson County H.S.)
Prepped at Hargrave Military Academy last season where coaches compared him favorably to Hargrave alum Leonard Pope. (Who starred at Georgia before going into the NFL last season.)
6-2, 254 RS FR, Pulaski County, KY (Pulaski County H.S)
Hard nosed player who refused to be outclassed by any of the more highly regarded tight ends in Spring camp. Will be a factor in fall.
The pass catchers appear to present the biggest concern for the Kentucky offense. Burton and Tamme are the only field-tested players, and both missed contact in the Spring as they rehabbed from serious injuries. Look for Burton and Ford to start game one against Louisville with Steve Johnson as the likely third receiver. UK desperately needs at least one of the two underachieving upperclassmen, Logan and Lyons, to provide dependable depth. While depth at receiver is a problem, experience is the concern at tight end with Tamme the only one to have taken a college snap. Fortunately, Kentucky has a stable of big, athletic tight ends who all got extensive work in the Spring. Based on the lack of depth at receiver and the offensive emphases on running the ball, look for more two tight end sets in the fall.